Wow. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I updated this page. I’m going to try to get back to regular posting, but it’s been a wacky summer. Not really busy, at least no more busy than usual, but just a disjointed and sort of random season.
Anyhow, I’d been working on some drafts of a blog I wanted to post about some new (to me) insights God’s been giving me lately. Things that have been growing out of some study and reading and conversations that have been part of the path this wacky summer has been taking. I took some of the stuff I’d been working on and put together a devotional for our youth group this evening on the topic of self-addiction and how basically the problems of the world all come down to our addiction to our own petty agendas, whatever those may be.
To be honest, it was kind of a yawner.
But that’s really not the point. To get to the point, I have to rewind to our Sunday morning service, where Pastor Steve announced that a family in town was in a bit of a critical situation and needed to get moved out of their house today. Brian, one of our Sunday School teachers, asked me if we might get the youth involved. Now, normally, that would have been a no-brainer. We always try to give our youth group those kinds of service opportunities when they crop up. But tonight was our last chance to finalize some plans for an upcoming event and I felt like we really needed to have our regular meeting. Besides, I thought, there would be plenty of help. So we went ahead with business as usual.
But as it turned out, not enough people showed up. At least not enough for the massive amount of work that needed to be done in a VERY short time. So we wrapped up our meeting a half-hour early and took 15 teens and three adults down the road to this house where things needed to be packed, boxed, and loaded on a truck. And we had about an hour to get as much done as we could. Like I said, it was a critical situation.
Now, the cool thing was, the kids didn’t hesitate to step up when they were called on. It would have been easy for them to make excuses or just go home, but every single one of them got on board and went to work. And they worked hard. It was amazing to see how much they accomplished, in addition to the adults that were already there, in such a short time.
And it wasn’t because they had gained some sort of epiphany about focusing on others from my little devotional earlier in the evening. Like I said, it was a bit of a yawner. It was because this generation of teenagers really gets what it means for the rubber to meet the road. Instead of sitting around talking about what Jesus would do, they’d much rather get out and do it. It’s one of the things I’m constantly learning from them the more I’m around them. They live in a world where talk is cheap and action means everything.
So I’m driving a couple of the kids home afterward, and after I dropped them off, I was thinking that they could really be proud of what they did. They really helped a family out who was in need. They served as Jesus would have served.
But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t feel good about it. That’s not to say I felt bad in any way, but it SEEMED like we had accomplished something to feel good about, to be proud of. But I couldn’t get there. Despite the amazing work all the people from our church had gotten done in such a short time, despite the fact that we had undoubtedly showed the face of Jesus to that family, despite the fact that we responded to a call for need, I still felt kind of empty.
Now, I’ve worked on mission and service projects before. And every other time, I came out of the situation feeling really happy to have been able to help people. But tonight, for some reason, it was different.
First of all, I couldn’t get past just being profoundly humbled. That family is living in circumstances that I can barely even imagine…not physical circumstances so much, but emotional. I don’t know their story and it’s truly none of my business, but the distress was palpable. But when I tried to just thank God that I’ve been spared that kind of experience, I was really overcome with an incredible sense of selfishness. How could I be happy about my own circumstances when I’m so baldly confronted with the difficulty of what my neighbor–in a biblical sense–was having to go through. I mean, here I was, going home to a comfortable bed, a loving family, a fridge full of food. But nothing’s really changed for the family we were helping. I mean, a lot of physical work got done that needed to get done, and in some way I hope what we did will help bring them closer to some sort of resolution, that God will use that as he so often does, as just once piece of a very big puzzle that we can’t even see the edges of. But while I’m sleeping on my soft pillow tonight, their struggle will continue. It’s not so much about life not being fair–I’ve come to accept that a long, long time ago–but about how small our efforts can seem sometimes.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this little ramble. It blows my mind how God just strips us down to raw reality sometimes. Here I was, giving a lesson on self-addiction to a bunch of kids from what may arguably be the most self-addicted generation ever to grace the planet. And by the end of the night, I was brought face-to-face with my own self-addiction.
Pride rears its ugly head in some very bizzare ways sometimes. While I am truly and, I think, justifiably proud of our teenagers and the other church members who stepped up to serve, I also wanted to be able to be proud of myself.
But there’s no place for that kind of pride in service to others. Otherwise, it just comes back to us serving ourselves. Our need to be recognized or appreciated. Our need to feel proud of ourselves.
So I’ve decided I’m just going to try to be thankful. Not so much thankful that my circumstances are what they are, but thankful that God uses us to serve one another so that we can show each other who He is. Thankful that I live in a community where people step in to help neighbors in distress. Thankful that I get to work with an amazing group of teenagers who can turn instantly from being bored with a message to putting it into action, and that I get to learn from their passion for living like Christ and not just talking about it. Thankful that somehow God will use what small contribution we made as a piece of reassembling someone’s life.
But mostly, thankful that God is so amazing beyond our ability to grasp, that he somehow knits all of these disjointed events and circumstances together, and makes it mean something for all of us as if He was just talking to us, but we know it has to be about so much more than just us, and that there’s no way I can ever understand that kind of devotion…so all I can do is just be in awe of Him, because that’s the only response that makes any sense at all.